There is a widely accepted link between regular physical activity and improved mental health. Even moderate exercise can release chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin which help to improve mood. Conversely, a lack of physical activity brought on by mental illnesses such as depression can exacerbate an existing issue. This is where Southport fitness trainer Jamie Duke saw an opening for her particular set of skills, and DUKE’s Youth and Fitness Program was formed.
“My programs are fitness based and are implemented to help young people who are recovering from mental health issues, substance misuse, trauma and young people with challenging behaviours ways to cope through fitness based activities,” explains Jamie.
DUKE’s Youth and Fitness works with young people from as young as 12 up to 25 years of age, with many of Jamie’s clients being referred by Child Safety and Youth Justice. She believes that the program offers more than just physical fitness to its participants.
“Young people also learn how to challenge themselves physically and mentally in and outside of the gym and how to reach their full potential through positive role modelling and mentoring,” says Jamie.
Jamie was inspired to make a career change after being bullied at work. Suffering from mental health concerns following the traumatic experience, she struggled to cope with everyday life. It was during this period that she came up with the idea to combine her passions into one business.
“I have always been passionate about helping people especially young people who are less fortunate due to family breakdown or lack of positive role models,” says Jamie.
“I am extremely passionate about my job and find it very rewarding watching young people succeeding in and outside of the gym.”
Jamie is currently running an intense program in conjunction with a mental health organisation. It is designed to foster mental toughness, goal setting and how to use physical activity to manage depression and anxiety. She is now looking at employing one of the participants as a personal trainer. I wonder at any other positive outcomes she might have to share.
“I have been working with a young person for 7 months, she had drug induced psychosis and has made permanent long lasting lifestyle changes through my program and with support of other local agencies,” enthuses Jamie.
“This young person has lost weight, now trains 5-6 days a week, secured employment, halved her medication, no longer drinks or does drugs, is confident, [has a] positive attitude, has an amazing glow and is a fantastic role model for other young people. Her journey and recovering has been very rewarding to watch.”
To Jamie, positive attitude is key. It’s a big part of what helped her overcome her own mental health issues and is what continues to keep her inspired to working towards the mental health of youth in the community. Or, as she puts it:
“I believe that every crappy situation brings something positive!”
If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental health concerns, please talk to a GP or Health Professional. Alternatively, you can contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au or headspace 1800 650 890 www.headspace.org.au